The Build for Waller Creek

In the beginning, upon enrolling in this class, I was unaware of the scale and commitment of the project I was embarking on. In the previous semester, I had been a major role in construction in the first ever Escape Room Build class, which required many hours outside of designated class times, and a ton of man hours. As a fourth-year Mechanical engineering student, I have taken nothing but technical classes since my freshman year, so any opportunity to get dirty and use my hands was a pleasant change of pace. I was hoping to get a similar experience with this Creek Build, as I had only heard and seen bits and pieces from others in the class, as well as walking past the monster nest almost every day on the way to the escape room. I was itching to build, and once I was assigned to the construction team, I was more than thrilled to begin the project.

Sprint meeting catching everyone up to speed

The class kicked off extremely quickly, within the first week we were assigned to our designated teams best suited to our interests, and began brainstorming ideas left and right. I was assigned to installation, a perfect match for what I was looking for in the class. However, beginning in February, it was rather surprising to find out that one of the the first install dates was less than two months away, in March. Considering that we only had designated class once a week, I knew this was going to be quite the task. I had a similar experience with the escape room build, so I knew some of the challenges that would present themselves. The main challenges to overcome included communication and time management. These go hand in hand. With such a large project, effective communication between our group members was essential to scheduling meetings and sharing ideas. With the use of slack and organization of team meetings every week, we were able to maximize our productivity.

Blueprint

The purpose of this project was to raise awareness of environmental sustainability focusing on individual responsibilities and mentality. As a member of the install team, our design had to reflect the fundamentals we stood for, while providing the eye-catching experience we desired. We split up the install team to tackle the specific attractions we wanted for our exhibit: the nest, signs, a labyrinth, tree wrappings, and lighting. I focused on signage, was that aspect would most likely require the most construction.

Snapshot of our celebration after finding a pesky broken LED link

The nest was already built from last semester’s team, however it was our team’s to rebuild what they left behind. One of the main challenges of this part of the project was deciphering the cryptic puzzle left behind, for the nest was in pieces. Secondly was the lighting for nest. rather than a constructional standpoint this took a turn towards the electrical side of things, requiring us to solder and organize the new led layout we desired. Another huge challenge was figuring out the power constraints, as we had a lot of ideas for lights and sounds to be installed into our exhibit, from the nest to lighting on the trees, to speakers in the woods.

LED testing

Next up, the labyrinth. This was going to be an artistic exhibit, made of various natural materials, such as sticks and leaves, and maybe some artificial materials such as plastic bags, in order to reflect the impact of littering towards local ecosystems, in this case, Waller creek. There would be a map of the globe laid out on the ground for people to walk by. The main aspect of this came with the design, and the collection of materials for it, as it was intended to be large enough for people to walk around on.

A prototype of the wrapping at the floodplain

The tree wrapping was one of the coolest ideas, as we were going to reflect the floodplain of Waller Creek with burlap wrapping to illustrate the possible water levels that have occurred in the past. There were many versions of this proposed, such as sound responsive led’s, but with our given time restraint, sacrifices had to be made.

Sign Assembly

As for signs, the task presented was to design and construct the basic frames, for the social engagement team was in charge of the sign content. Once we got our basic design, it was a matter of just cutting, gluing, and nailing the pieces.

Like any large project, there were many ideas that didn’t make the cut. For example, there were talks of putting a string of lanterns made of recyclable bottles, made by participants in the Earth Day parade, sounds and sound responsive lights on the trees, maybe even a swing, and several hammocks in the area for people to relax. However, due to the rapidly approaching deadline, these ideas had to be scrapped. In addition, the arrival of Covid-19 halted the entire project in it’s tracks. The majority of the design phase was out of the way, all we really had to do was install. We had to drag the nest to the site, wrap the trees, lay down the labyrinth, place some signs, and plug everything in. Now that the class is online, we are still looking for ways we can communicate our message through online interactions and personal projects people can do in the distanced safety of their homes.

Despite the abrupt halt, the experience I have had with the project has been extremely enjoyable and worthwhile. Afternoons and weekends were sacrificed, all for a good cause. I learned many things and got teamwork project experience with memories that will last a lifetime.